LA Rams: Did OC Kevin O’Connell let team down against Chargers?

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

From the moment that the LA Rams announced that offensive coordinator, Kevin O’Connell, would call the plays against the LA Chargers in the first preseason game, I had mixed reactions. I would love for head coach Sean McVay to focus more on head coaching responsibilities. Someone on the coaching staff needs to be aware that four inside linebackers and six offensive linemen with the same expiration dates for their contracts are not good things for the team. Little stuff like that.

It’s also important for an offensive coordinator to, in fact, coordinate the offense. If Kevin O’Connell is simply the team’s quarterback whisperer, then let him do so but call him the quarterback coach and just pay him as the best quarterback coach in the NFL.  But Coach McVay needs to take a big picture view of the team now. To do so, Offensive Coordinator O’Connell must claim more responsibility for the offense.

We know that in the language of coach speak, that the offense that scores just six points is not one that can be counted on to win games. We also know that with the exodus of Brandon Staley, Aubrey Pleasant, and Joe Barry, the Vic Fangio defensive strategy is propagating rapidly in the NFL. So why did the offense that is so familiar with that particular brand of defense so ineffective against it?

Perhaps try to win a bit harder?

No, I’m not overreacting. The LA Rams put up just 197 yards of total offense. They put up one touchdown and one interception. Worst of all, even though this game was all about rotating players throughout the game, there were no rushers who got 30+ yards on the ground, and no receivers who put up 45+ yards through the air.  Not only did the Rams lose possession through an interception, but they also gifted the football to the Chargers via a fumble. At the end of the game, the turnover battle read: Chargers 0 turnovers, Rams 2 turnovers. That was a battle the Rams did not want to lose.

It’s deja vu all over again.

The offense was marching to a different drummer in this one, I get it. The team didn’t have many plays to draw from, was working with inexperienced players and unfamiliar player groupings. Most of the players on the field for the LA Rams truly had never competed against another NFL team before. For those who had, it was nearly two years time prior.

Oh dear, O’Connell

The Staley defense cheats on the running play by committing a defender to cheat into each and every gap. With all gaps accounted for, creating running lanes requires a bit more sophistication than turning and handing off the ball. Even armed with the foreknowledge of the defensive strategy, that is the route that the offense took.

That being said, the Rams did not use as many two tight end sets as I might have imagined. There was a very vanilla offensive set in terms of running back, either one or none. The Rams did not make any attempt to run the ball better. Rather, the team got stuffed on running plays, shrugged their shoulders, and tried a pass play.

The Rams fell short on punts and in the kicking game. The Rams won at the return game, and it might have been much better if Tutu Atwell’s punt return had not been called back. The Rams played with gusto on defense. But at the end of the game, the Rams’ offense fell far shot. 197 yards of total offense, one touchdown, two turnovers, and two misses by the placekicker.

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No, I can’t lay all of this at the feet of Kevin O’Connell alone. But as I had said in another article, you have to note the data and then track where it goes next. This first outing was pretty bad offensively for the team. Now that we have this one plotted on the graph, let’s see where the offense, and Kevin O’Connell’s play-calling, goes from here.